September 14, 2000
Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush charges that the U.S. military declined during the Clinton/Gore administration. After a background report, experts from the Bush and Gore campaigns and independent observers debate Bush's claims.
MARGARET WARNER: What is the state of the U.S. military today and how differently do Bush and Gore see the issue? To explore and debate that we're joined by Stephen Hadley, former Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Bush administration, now a senior policy adviser to George W. Bush; Gordon Adams who oversaw foreign affairs and national security spending at the Office of Management and Budget in President Clinton's first term. He now co-chair's Al Gore's defense advisory group; Lawrence Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration, and now vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations; and retired Army Colonel David Hackworth, who served from 1946 to 1971. He's the author of "About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior", and is a syndicated columnist for King Features.
Welcome, gentlemen. Steven Hadley, George W. Bush has made two broad charges here, and let's take them one by one. The first is that the U.S. military is in decline. What's the evidence of that?
|George W. Bush's charges|
STEPHEN HADLEY: There's two bits of evidence. One thing, it's important to say what he's not saying. U.S. military is the best in the world, and the men and women in uniform do a terrific job. Nobody disputes that. But there's a problem, and it's got a short-term and a long-term piece. The short-term piece is, are we doing enough to support our men and women in uniform for the things we ask them to do today? The operations overseas are up by a factor of three. That means longer deployments, longer separations, and we begin to see, in this decade showing up, that showing up in terms of difficulties to recruit people, difficulties to retain people. And in order to hold that force, you need to pay them enough, you need to give them good housing, you need to put the kind of money into it that allows people to feel comfortable with foreign missions today.
And there's a long-term piece. We built this force in the 1980's. This equipment is getting old, it needs to be replaced, so we have a modernization issue, but we also need to begin to both modernize the force and transform it to the lighter, mobile force that everyone's been talking about that we need to have. We haven't made much progress on that.
MARGARET WARNER: But let's go back even to the premise before, the details about readiness, which is that the U.S. military is now, in some way, weaker or less capable than it was when Clinton and Gore... the Clinton-Gore administration inherited from George W. Bush's father. What's the evidence that it's in decline?
STEPHEN HADLEY: Well, one of the things that you've heard from military leaders, General Zinni, for example. He most recently said, we cannot now do the two simultaneous major theater wars that we plan for without accepting what he believes is undue risk and undue delay in executing the second piece of it. That's one measure. But I think the real measure is what we ask these men and women to do, day in and day out, and what they're telling us when there are questions raised about morale and retention and recruitment and those sorts of things. That's the issues we need to really address, and that's money, that's support, that's training, that's maintenance, that's good pay, and a lot of other things.
|A different kind of military|
|MARGARET WARNER: All right, Gordon Evans, how do you and
Vice President Gore see this, in terms of whether it's in decline?
GORDON ADAMS: Yeah. First off, it's clear that Vice President Gore does understand these issues. He served in the military. He voted for the Persian Gulf War along with only nine other colleagues in the Senate Democrats, so he's prepared to go to the mattress, with respect to American national security. He follows these closely and monitors these issues closely.
I don't think this is fundamentally a readiness issue. This administration, current administration, has invested in readiness. Recruitment numbers, retention numbers are now meeting their goals this year, after a lot of investment by this administration. The first pay raise that has gone into effect, the largest pay raise, probably since the 1980's, has been put into effect by this administration. The quality of life investment has gone up 35 percent over the past eight years of this administration in constant dollars. In other words, we're investing in readiness, and the readiness is probably quite good. It's, in fact, proven in the performance. Where we send these forces, these forces perform, as Steve has said, superbly well. I think the real issues here are twofold, and the real differences between Vice President Gore and Governor Bush are twofold. One is, who is investing in transformation, and what does transformation mean?
MARGARET WARNER: What does transformation mean?
GORDON ADAMS: If you look at the force that is in place today, it is already significantly different from the force that was left behind at the end of the previous Bush administration. We have 90 percent of our aircraft, fighter aircraft, for example, capable of using precision-guided munitions. It was 9 percent back when this administration came into office. If you look at the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in Kosovo, to take data and provide it to shooters in order to target the Kosovo air war, the performance was superb. We couldn't do that ten years ago.
So the force is clearly in the process of being transformed, and Vice President Gore has now put on the table resources that he's prepared to commit to making that transformation to continue, to build on that record. The other major issue that I think we have to confront here is, what are we using these forces for, and Vice President Gore is clearly in favor of forward engagement. He is clearly in favor of American leadership, and understands the synergy with which you have to use your intelligence, your diplomacy and your military capabilities...
MARGARET WARNER: Okay, we've got to...
GORDON ADAMS: ...in order to accomplish your goal.
|Two views of military readiness|
|MARGARET WARNER: We've got a lot on the table. Let me go
back to the... in decline or in transformation. Colonel Hackworth, how
do you see that in terms of the way the U.S. military is today, vis-à-vis
what the Clinton-Gore administration inherited eight years ago?
COL. DAVID HACKWORTH: Well, I've been on this beat for 55 years, 26 as a soldier and 29 as a writer about soldiers, a war correspondent, and so on. In these 55 years, I have never seen morale as low as it is today, and I've never seen our readiness as bad as it is today. And it's shocking. The Marine Corps has no choppers. Their Harrier jets are gone. The Air Force is at 40 percent of operational effectiveness. The Navy's at 30 percent of operational effectiveness, and the gentleman who mentioned how well we did over Serbia, the Navy has just released an inspector general report that said we missed 50 percent of the targets over Serbia and over Iraq. So Naval gunnery and Naval piloting is just not what it should be.
Across the board -- in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps -- our readiness is very, very bad. And this is not a political issue; this is a life or death issue. These young folks that are defending our country -- and I agree with everyone who's spoken so far -- they're the best. But we don't know what's coming down the track tomorrow. We don't know if Iraq is going to raise its head. We didn't know in '88 when we were providing him with intelligence, and ammunition, and supplies, and so on that we'd be fighting him a couple years from now. You never know who your enemy is, and you have to be ready.
We are not ready now, and I talk to 500 servicemen a day, I visit the military base once a week. I'll be off to Fort Benning, Georgia, for a week next week to talk to our grunts and take a look at our training, so I bring you factual reports of what soldiers are telling me, what leaders are telling me, and they say we're in serious trouble.
MARGARET WARNER: Lawrence Korb, how do you see it? That sounds like a bleak picture.
LAWRENCE KORB: Well, the military is certainly smaller than when President Bush left office, but I think it's more effective and it's more capable of dealing with the threats. After all, if we compare this, as you did in your opening segment, to what we spent in 1989 or besides, nobody would argue it's as effective or as ready, because it doesn't have to be. I think the problem, and Colonel Hackworth was pointing it out, we're still using the same type of readiness indicators and training as we did during the Cold War, and this is a new era. We're still buying Cold War-type weapons systems. We're sort of almost in an arms race with ourselves. We're going ahead with the next generation of military weaponry that was really developed to deal with the Soviet Union.
I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about: The Navy had a great chance to buy an arsenal ship, which is a comparatively inexpensive ship, a couple of hundred million dollars that you could load up with missiles and you could fire against targets like we have been in the last couple of years. That died because nobody was willing to step forward. The aircraft carrier people didn't want it, the surface Navy people didn't want it, and so instead we build $1 billion destroyers and $6 billion aircraft carriers, rather than building this.
If we were to buy the current generation of our fighter aircraft -- the F-15, the F-16, the FA-18 C and D -- instead of trying to buy $200 million fighters like the F-22, you wouldn't have these maintenance problems, because you'd be able to replace the current generation of systems, rather than going ahead and buying the more expensive, more sophisticated, which you don't need in this day and age because you don't have a peer competitor.
|Defining the threat|
|MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let me get Stephen Hadley to
respond to that. That raises the bottom line question, which is, is the
U.S. in jeopardy from any adversary or combination of adversaries we can
see now or in the near term, and as both our guests in New York raised,
who is it we should be getting ready to fight?
STEPHEN HADLEY: Look, we're in a wonderful situation in that we don't have the kinds of threats we faced in the Cold War. That's a great triumph for Americans; Americans are safer today than they've ever been before. But you don't raise the question in terms of, "do we have a bigger military, and are we spending more in defense budgets than all our adversaries?" We have a different standard. We say that when we send our men and women into combat, we want to give them the best America has to offer. We've set a standard. We go in, we go decisively, we win, we keep casualties home... low, and we get people out. You can't do that unless you address these issues both in terms of short-term readiness and long-term modernization, so the issue really is, are we doing right by the men and women in uniform, and I think the judgment really is that we're not. We've got to do better.
MARGARET WARNER: How do you see this?
GORDON ADAMS: Well, I think, to come back to the readiness point for a moment, I think in fact we have done right by the men and women in uniform.
MARGARET WARNER: I'm sorry, let me interrupt you. What I'm really asking is, what do we need to be ready to fight? What should be the test today in this post-Cold War era?
GORDON ADAMS: I think that's the critical question.
MARGARET WARNER: No, just a minute. Let me just let Gordon Adams chime in here first.
GORDON ADAMS: I think that's the critical question, actually, is what is it we are... readiness for what? What are we to be ready for? And clearly, there are a series of things that are involved in what the vice president has called forward engagement and American leadership around the world, in which your military capability is an essential tool. It's not your only tool, but it's a tool you have to marry up to your diplomacy, to your intelligence, in order to deal with what the military calls "full spectrum of contingencies."
MARGARET WARNER: Give us an example for people sitting at home saying, "what? Where? What's the scenario?"
GORDON ADAMS: We have contingencies all the way from what we do right now in the Balkans, which is a peace stabilization operation. Now, understand that [Governor] Bush is not sure he wants to stay there. I would argue very strongly we play an important leadership role in the Balkans.
We have an important deterrence and containment of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf, where this administration has 20,000 to 25,000 people deployed in the theater, that weren't there in 1990, before we went into Desert Storm, and are now there and fully capable, all the way to the restoration of democracy in Haiti, which was a successful operation carried out with the use of the military and with the use of foreign assistance and diplomacy.
We got those troops in there safely because of the diplomacy worked, so there's a series of contingencies that go all the way from major combat contingencies right across to the American leadership role, in such areas as putting 200 people in to help with the logistics and communications in East Timor, where the Australians take the lead in a coalition, but we provide some of the spine that helps them to operate. American leadership is a global responsibility. The military is clearly one of the tools that we will bring to our arsenal of handling that responsibility.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay, Colonel Hackworth, you weight -- I know you were trying to get in here earlier. In terms of what threat should we be ready for?
COL. DAVID HACKWORTH: I want to get to straight talk because all we're talking is bureaucratic talk at the defense level. I'm talking about what the grunts go through. Our armed forces are nothing other than a big fire department. When a fire occurs, and we never know when a fire occurs, that fire department has got to be ready to get there and put out the fire. It is a 911 force. Right now, our fire department doesn't have any will.
Now, we say what's our judgment? There's no threats out there. You never know. Louis Johnson in May of 1950 told Harry Truman, the president, there were no threats out there. In June of 1950, we went eyeball to eyeball with the North Korean army when they invaded North Korea. And we got whipped. We were decisively whipped because Louis Johnson, the secretary of defense, was giving up the same kind of spill we're hearing here now that we're ready when we weren't. Now, thousands upon thousands of Americans were killed and wounded in the first six months of that war, and we were almost driven to the sea because we were not ready.
MARGARET WARNER: Colonel Hackworth...
COL. DAVID HACKWORTH: .the fire department wasn't set.
GORDON ADAMS: It is an entirely different military today than in the Korean War. One example in the Korean War...
MARGARET WARNER: Let me get Larry Korb in here.
LAWRENCE KORB: I think, you know, when you go back and you look at these historical things like before the Korean War or Governor Bush talking about what it was like before World War II, that's completely irrelevant. Today, as Steve mentioned, we do -- we spend more than all of our competitors combined. We spend enough to be able to deal with what we have to. The problem you have is the military leadership, particularly, is still holding on to their Cold War type of thinking and training and doctrine and buying weapons.
No wonder the troops are frustrated because when the Air Force spends $200 million to buy an F-22, that means they can't get the spare parts. They can't get the F-16s and the F-15s they should be getting. When the Navy doesn't buy an arsenal ship and you have to send a carrier task force out to do what one ship could do, then you do overwork the people. They haven't reorganized the military, the active and reserves, since the end of the Cold War.
MARGARET WARNER: So, Mr. Korb, let me just interrupt you. Are you saying then that we don't have to be prepared for absolutely every contingency; that the U.S. just has to spend smarter?
LAWRENCE KORB: That's correct. I mean, and you could never prepare for every single contingency. You need to be able to fight a large war, and you need to be able to do these peacekeeping type of operations.
GORDON ADAMS: In effect preparing for every contingency. And in fact do you have to prepare for every contingency.
LAWRENCE KORB: Gordon, if you say are we prepared to do this, this, and this, and they all come simultaneously, no. And I think that's where we got ourselves into trouble with this simultaneous. Well, if we were all engaged in one place and something else happened, we need to have two, three, four. I mean, you would never end with it. I think a reasonable person has to say, well what is it I do, am I prepared to do it. And I would say we are. We don't manage well, we overuse certain units. And we under use other units. The army's civil affairs battalions - they are all in the reserves. That's what you are using in Bosnia and Kosovo.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay. Gentlemen, I'm sorry. We have to leave it there. I know this is going to go on for the next eight weeks, and we'll return to it. Thank you all four very much.